By Dorli Gschwandtner
Eurasia Region Communications
Rev. Ian Wills became the new field strategy coordinator for Eurasia’s Northern Europe Field in August. Originally from Glasgow, Scotland, he is a fourth generation Nazarene. He worked in finance and banking for several years before studying theology, earning a Bachelor of Divinity and a Master of Theology at Glasgow University, and a DMin at Asbury Seminary. He also continues to serve as pastor of Parkhead Church of the Nazarene in Scotland.
What has been your ministry so far?
I’ve been a Nazarene pastor since 1997. I worked as associate pastor in the Parkhead Church of the Nazarene in Glasgow for 12 years and then as lead pastor in Parkhead for seven years. In-between I had a year’s sabbatical when I studied at Asbury Seminary for a doctorate (D.Min.).
My main ministry in my church is helping the church reconnect with the local community, building a strategy for incarnational ministry in one of the poorest areas of Glasgow where our church is located, taking a commuting congregation to become an incarnational, embedded church community. It has been over a period of 20 years that we’ve really focused on this. We function as a community hub for all kinds of local ministries such as family ministry, addiction ministry, and refugee ministry.
Why did you feel led to take on the role of FSC?
Originally I had no interest in this, I wasn’t against it, but not interested. Then I went for a three-day prayer retreat and God spoke to me through 2 Kings 6, where a company of prophets decides to build something new together. I needed to hear that; I basically said to God: If I don’t see something in black and white I won’t do it, and I felt this passage gave me a black-and-white picture of working with other leaders to sharpen the missional edge of the church.
My big passion is: How do we release local churches into the mission of God? How do we take local congregations to become incarnational ministries? Or in simple terms: How do we get churches to do and say what Jesus did?
What does the new role mean for your current ministry?
Since the FSC role is only part-time, I will remain the pastor at Parkhead Church of the Nazarene. This is possible because in Parkhead I have a team and staff who are very able and gifted in the ministry that they’re involved with in the local church. The church board is very supportive of me taking on this new role and think this will be valuable to the wider church.
I have an established church at my feet and the structures are already in place; it’s just helping those structures release the local church doing what Jesus does and says.
In this initial stage I’m trying to develop a vision and strategy with local district superintendents (DSs), so this first year I will be working alongside them to create a vision and picture of what the Northern European Field and a strategy coordinator’s role could look like.
Where do you see opportunities and challenges in the Northern Europe Field?
In Northern Europe, the church often feels like exiles; they are strangers in their own society or community and uncertain of how to reconnect with their communities. This is a challenge, but yet there are some churches across the field that have shown that it’s possible and are flourishing. But it’s not an easy journey.
Many of the challenges in Northern Europe are the same no matter what country you’re in, there are lots of similarities, so there is great opportunity for mutual learning. The church has a lot to offer society, and I hope that together we can work on rediscovering and valuing the church (as people both outside and inside the church are often very negative) and capturing an optimistic, hopeful vision of the church.
I’m driven by at least two questions that every church should be asking: Who is our neighbour? What do we have in our hand? This is a way of connecting who we are and what we have with our neighbour.